9.30.2005

A Transatlantic Front: United Against Iranian Nukes

International Herald Tribune, September 15, 2005

Philip H. Gordon, Director, Center on the U.S. and Europe
Charles Grant, Director, Center for European Reform

Last February, a group of European and American foreign policy experts issued the "Compact Between the United States and Europe," a detailed proposal for trans-Atlantic cooperation on the key foreign policy issues of the day (IHT Feb. 17, 2005). The premise of the compact was that the split that had emerged between the two sides of the Atlantic in recent years was deeply damaging to the interests of both sides, and that agreements on common policy challenges were both necessary and possible.

In that light, we were deeply disappointed by Iran's rejection of the offer in August by Britain, France and Germany to provide Iran with support for a civilian nuclear energy program, as well as far-reaching political and economic incentives, in exchange for Tehran's agreement not to develop its capacity for nuclear enrichment and reprocessing.

The European proposal, which had explicit support from the United States, would have made it possible for Iran to acquire Western nuclear reactors and fuel for the civilian nuclear energy program Iran claims to need. Iran rejected it out of hand, removed International Atomic Energy Agency seals at its nuclear facility in Isfahan and resumed the process of uranium conversion.

We believe an Iranian nuclear weapons capability would be dangerous and destabilizing. It could lead to further nuclear proliferation in the region, provide cover for Tehran to pursue a more aggressive foreign policy and deal a fatal blow to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The European Union and the United States have a strong common interest in bringing Iran back to the negotiating table and persuading it to change course. The best way to do that is to make clear to Iran that it can win significant political and economic benefits if it forgoes a nuclear weapons program, but that it will pay a very big political and economic price if it does not. Such an effort will only work if America and Europe stand united.

Therefore, the United States and the European Union should endorse the following:

The United States and the European Union call upon Iran to renew the suspension of nuclear conversion activities and to send overseas all materials produced since the breaking of the seals at Isfahan as a basis for resuming nuclear discussions with Britain, France and Germany. Only a permanent and verifiable end to Iran's nuclear fuel cycle program can guarantee that Iran is not working on nuclear weapons.

The United States reiterates its support for the EU nuclear dialogue with Iran. If Iran permanently and verifiably ended its fuel cycle programs, the United States would support Iran's right to import technology for a civilian nuclear energy program, and it would not impose sanctions against European companies that engage in civilian trade and investment with Iran.

The United States declares its willingness to explore other issues directly with Iran, including bilateral diplomatic and economic relations, U.S. economic sanctions against Iran, Iranian support for terrorist groups, Iran's opposition to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and Iran's membership in the World Trade Organization. The United States and the EU will continue to support the efforts of the Iranian people to secure basic human rights and build a functioning democracy in Iran.

The EU reiterates its willingness to support Iran's civil nuclear energy program, but declares its readiness to impose meaningful penalties on Iran if it refuses to end its fuel cycle programs or withdraws from the NPT. If Iran refuses to renew the full suspension of all enrichment related activities, EU leaders will support asking the United Nations Security Council to adopt a resolution requiring Iran to do so or face economic and diplomatic sanctions, including a ban on new foreign investment in Iran's energy sector. EU countries would seek consensus at the Security Council, but Russian or Chinese opposition would not prevent them from imposing sanctions on their own, together with the United States and Japan. The EU will consider additional steps should Iran proceed with nuclear enrichment, withdraw from the IAEA Additional Protocol or withdraw from the NPT.

This article is based on a "U.S.-Europe Statement on Iran," which was signed by a group of prominent experts and former officials from the United States and Europe.

This group of experts and former officials includes: Urban Ahlin, Giuliano Amato, Gerassimos Arsenis, Samuel R. Berger, Richard Burt, Jean-Claude Casanova, Ivo H. Daalder, Marta Dassu, Thérèse Delpech, Lawrence Freedman, Francis Fukuyama, Leslie Gelb, Robert Gelbard, John Gibson, Nicole Gnesotto, Ulrike Guérot, David Hannay, Douglas Hurd, Robert Hutchings, G. John Ikenberry, Josef Janning, Géza Jeszensky, Robert Kagan, Daniel Keohane, Ivan Krastev, Mart Laar, Anthony Lake, Mark Leonard, Andrew Moravcsik, Kalypso Nicolaidis, Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Michael O'Hanlon, Soli Özel, Ana Palacio, William J. Perry, Thomas Pickering, Susan Rice, George Robertson, Gary Samore, David Sandalow, Simon Serfaty, Narcيs Serra, Jeremy Shapiro, Stefano Silvestri, Anne-Marie Slaughter, James B. Steinberg, Strobe Talbott, Antonio Vitorino and Joris Vos.

Palestinian Governance Key to Mideast Peace, State's Welch Says

United States concerned about security problems in Gaza

By David Shelby
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- Much of the future progress in the Middle East peace process hinges on the ability of the Palestinian Authority to establish effective, accountable governance over the area that Israeli settlers and security forces recently have evacuated in the Gaza Strip, according to Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch.

Welch told members of the House of Representatives International Relations Subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia September 21 that the Palestinians must govern in a way that earns the confidence of the Israelis, the international community and the Palestinians themselves.

“Now that Israel is out of Gaza, we have the first substantial test in decades of the proposition that the institutions of the state can be constructed in a responsible way by the Palestinians themselves. And at the heart of that is this question of law and order and security,” Welch told the lawmakers.

On September 20 in New York, the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, known as the Quartet when dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, met for the first time since Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza to discuss ways to maintain momentum toward a peaceful settlement of the conflict. (See “Mideast Quartet Looks To Build on Israeli Withdrawal from Gaza.”)

At the subcommittee hearing, the assistant secretary expressed the administration’s concern over reported security failures following Israel’s withdrawal, including smuggling across the Gaza-Egypt border and looting in the Gaza greenhouses that Israel turned over to the Palestinians.

“The events of the past few days underscore the very real challenges facing the Palestinian Authority as it takes on new responsibilities for governance,” Welch said. The Palestinian Authority “must move quickly to establish order and take steps to dismantle the infrastructure of terror. …And progress must continue on the critical task of reforming the PA security services under a unified civilian command.”

Lieutenant General William Ward, who served as the U.S. coordinator for the Palestinian security forces during the Israeli withdrawal, told the lawmakers that the reform of the security services should start with an assessment of the Palestinians’ security needs. Such an assessment, Ward said, could serve as the basis for a comprehensive plan of how those forces should be structured. He said that the militias also must be disarmed and that the capabilities of the Ministry of the Interior must be enhanced.

Assistant Secretary Welch also spoke about the need for economic growth in Gaza: “Four years of Intifada-induced economic decline left over two-thirds of Gazans in poverty.”

Recognizing that extremists could capitalize on the desperation created by these high levels of poverty, he said the international community is committed to helping the Palestinians overcome their economic difficulties.

“There’s no question that the international community is now unified in its purpose here, and part of the plan … is to marshal that international support in a direction that helps the moderate center of the Palestinian community,” he said.

In particular, he called on Arab states to live up to their commitments of financial support for the Palestinian Authority.

Welch’s testimony is available on the House International Relations Committee Web site.

Source: The Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.

Document: Quartet Statement on Middle East Peace

Text released by the United Nations
New York City
20 September 2005

Representatives of the Quartet -- U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, U.K. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, High Representative for European Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, and European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner -- met today in New York to discuss the Gaza disengagement and the prospects for movement towards peace in the Middle East.

The Quartet recognizes and welcomes the successful conclusion of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the northern West Bank and the moment of opportunity that it brings to renew efforts on the Roadmap. The Quartet reiterates its belief that this brave and historic decision should open a new chapter on the path to peace in the region. It paid tribute to the political courage of Prime Minister Sharon and commends the Israeli government, its armed forces and its police for the smooth and professional execution of the operation. It also expresses its appreciation for the responsible behavior of the Palestinian Authority and people for helping maintain a peaceful environment during the evacuation. The Quartet applauds the close coordination between the Israeli and Palestinian security services during the process. These significant developments create new opportunities and call for renewed focus on the responsibilities of all parties. The conclusion of disengagement represents an important step toward achieving the vision of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security.

The Quartet commends continued cooperation between both parties and the U.S. Security Coordinator, General William Ward, on security issues related to the disengagement. The Quartet calls for an end to all violence and terror. While the PA leadership has condemned violence and has sought to encourage Palestinian groups who have engaged in terrorism to abandon this course and engage in the democratic process, the Quartet further urges the Palestinian Authority to maintain law and order and dismantle terrorist capabilities and infrastructure. The Quartet reaffirms the continued importance of comprehensive reform of the Palestinian security services. The rule of law through authorized security institutions is fundamental to democratic practice. The Quartet expresses appreciation to those parties which have made contributions to the security reform effort, particularly Egypt , the European Union, and the United States. Finally, the Quartet welcomes the agreement between the Governments of Israel and Egypt on security arrangements along the Gaza-Egypt border.

At today's meeting, Quartet Special Envoy Wolfensohn's report on his current efforts and initiatives was discussed. The Quartet encourages his further work to facilitate continued discussion between the parties to build on the success of disengagement. The Palestinian Authority should demonstrate its ability to govern, and all members of the international community should look for ways to support these efforts. The Quartet will continue to lead international efforts to support sustainable growth of the Palestinian economy and to strengthen the overall capacity of the Palestinian Authority to assume its responsibilities through an aggressive pursuit of state building and democratic reform efforts. Given the critical importance of free movement in the West Bank to the viability of the Palestinian economy, the Quartet urges an easing of the system of movement restrictions, consistent with Israel 's security needs. The Quartet reaffirms that coordinated action by the international donor community is crucial for the success of the Quartet Special Envoy's Quick Impact Economic Program, as well as for the longer term three year plan for Palestinian development. In this regard, it notes the importance of the $750 million in assistance which will be disbursed to the Palestinian Authority during the remainder of this year. The Quartet urges Arab states to implement existing commitments and to engage fully and positively in response to the Special Envoy's initiatives. To ensure the success of this effort, the Quartet views continued progress on institutional reform of the Palestinian Authority, as well as progress in combating corruption, as essential. The Quartet also welcomes the announcement of Palestinian Legislative Council elections and upcoming municipal elections.

Looking beyond disengagement, the Quartet reviewed progress on implementation of the Roadmap. The Quartet calls for renewed action in parallel by both parties on their obligations in accordance with the sequence of the Roadmap. As part of the confidence-building process the Quartet urged both sides to return to the cooperative agenda reached at Sharm el-Sheikh. Contacts between the parties should be intensified at all levels. The Quartet charges the Envoys to keep progress under review.

Both parties are reminded of their obligations under the Roadmap to avoid unilateral actions which prejudice final status issues. The Quartet reaffirms that any final agreement must be reached through negotiation between the parties and that a new Palestinian state must be truly viable with contiguity in the West Bank and connectivity to Gaza. On settlements, the Quartet welcomed the fact that, in areas covered by disengagement, Israel has gone beyond its obligations under the first phase of the Roadmap. The Quartet expresses its concern that settlement expansion elsewhere must stop, and Israel must remove unauthorized outposts. The Quartet continues to note with concern the route of the Israeli separation barrier, particularly as it results in the confiscation of Palestinian land, cuts off the movement of people and goods, and undermines Palestinians' trust in the Roadmap process as it appears to prejudge the final borders of a Palestinian state.

The Quartet members exchanged views on the Russian proposal to hold an international meeting of experts in Moscow. Contacts on this matter will continue, taking into consideration the need to give attention to the various aspects of the Middle East situation, including multilateral matters.

The Quartet reiterates its commitment to the principles outlined in previous statements, including those of May 4, 2004, May 9, 2005, and June 23, 2005, and reaffirms its commitment to a just, comprehensive, and lasting settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict based upon U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.

It's Not Israel That's Driving Tehran to Nukes

Author: Ray Takeyh

August 27, 2005
International Herald Tribune

It is by now a Washington ritual, with delegations of visiting Israeli officials armed with intelligence analyses and satellite imagery insisting to their American counterparts that Iran's nuclear program represents an existential threat to their beleaguered state.

The persistence of such claims has essentially transformed Israeli assertions into a self-evident verity, a proposition that requires no further reproach. The only problem with this assessment is that it's not true. However objectionable Israel maybe to Iran's clerical oligarchs, it does not motivate their nuclear weapons program.

As part of a project that surveyed Iran's discourse on nuclear weapons, including official pronouncements, sermons, speeches and media commentaries, I was stuck by how seldom Israel actually features into these deliberations.

To be sure, for a generation of Iranian clerics, Israel remains an illegitimate state, usurping sacred Islamic lands and serving as an instrument of American imperial encroachment of the Middle East. Such an ideological animus has led Iran to sustain a range of deadly terrorist organizations and Palestinian rejectionist forces plotting against the Jewish state. But Iran's clerical regime does not seem inordinately concerned about Israel's nuclear monopoly, nor does it feel itself necessarily threaten by Israel's formidable armed forces.

Despite Iran's inflammatory conduct, the reality remains that during the past quarter of century it has sought to regulate its low-intensity conflict with Israel and has assiduously avoided direct military confrontation with Jerusalem. This is a conflict largely waged by proxies, as Iran exhibits its ideological disdain for Israel by assisting militant groups. Such a strategy allows Iran to brandish its Islamic credentials without necessarily exposing itself to inordinate danger and does not call for the provision of nuclear arms.

Israel , for its part, has so far been satisfied with containing this conflict within its well-delineated red lines, as continued Iranian provocations have not entailed Israeli military reprisals. Successive Israeli governments have sought to influence Iran's calculus by pushing for an international consensus behind a policy of economic pressure and political isolation of the theocratic regime.

Israel 's coercive diplomacy may not have dissuaded European and Asian states from purchasing Iranian oil, but it has succeeded in depriving Iran of the need for a deterrent "strategic weapon." Because the two states have no territory in dispute, and because Israel has not brandished its nuclear arms to threaten the Islamic Republic, Tehran has the luxury of viewing Israel as an ideological affront rather than a military challenge.

If Israel's nuclear arsenal features in the Iranian debate, it is mainly in the context of international and American hypocrisy in perennially criticizing Iran's nuclear efforts yet maintaining a curious silence on Israel's atomic bombs. Iranian leaders can seek to deflect attention from their own well-documented nuclear infractions by pointing to Israel and India, states that have developed nuclear weapons outside the parameters of the nonproliferation treaty.

If Israel is not the reason, however, why does Iran seek the atomic option? The reality remains that since the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration's incendiary rhetoric denouncing Iran as an "outpost of tyranny" that is part of an "axis of evil" and the encirclement of Iran with U.S. military power has presented Iran's rulers with a pronounced and imminent threat.

While the United States today may seem like a befuddled superpower entangled in a bloody Iraqi quagmire without an evident exit strategy, for Tehran it is still a state whose antagonistic attitude cannot be neglected and whose power cannot be ignored. Many within the clerical regime are looking toward the bomb as the ultimate guarantee of American reticence.

All this would change should Israel undertake a military strike against Iran's suspected nuclear installations. In essence, such an action would finally move the Iranian-Israeli confrontation beyond its existing limits, transforming Israel into a palpable threat whose deterrence requires the acquisition of the bomb. The Sharon government would be wise to dispense with its much-advertised military option, as such an attack would only imperil the security of Israel and the international community.

Ray Takeyh, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, is completing a book on turning points in Iran's foreign policy.

9.22.2005

The West Should Push Mubarak on Reform

By Amr Hamzawy
The Daily Star, September 13, 2005

As expected, Hosni Mubarak won Egypt's presidential election on September 7. However, with a voter turnout as low as 20 percent according to independent estimates and massive irregularities reported at the polls, the regime's claim that Mubarak was confirmed democratically and by a majority of Egyptians does not have much substance.

Egypt's election day represented a step forward on the road to the opening up of a persistently authoritarian regime. It revitalized the political scene and partially minimized citizens' apathy toward politics. But to describe having nine opposition contenders against Mubarak as a historical breakthrough ignores the fact that the election was not competitive and that the election rules were clearly undemocratic.

From the start the amendment of Article 76 of the Constitution, which opened the door for candidates of opposition parties, excluded independents and therefore alienated popular political movements, such as the Muslim Brotherhood. Mubarak's regime refused to accept international monitors and effectively limited the capacity of Egyptian non-governmental organizations to oversee the election. There were widespread reports that the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) resorted, especially in rural areas, to using state resources to mobilize support for the president. His only two serious opponents, Nouman Gomaa of the liberal Wafd and Ayman Nour of Al-Ghad, expressed doubts about the validity of the election results. Nour went so far as to stamp the election as illegitimate, echoing the position of different new protest alliances such as the Kifaya (Enough) Movement. Mubarak's allies in the West are already voicing concerns about election irregularities.

Egypt was divided on the road toward its first multi-candidate presidential election and is polarized after it. The election gave Mubarak a fifth term, but did not change his regime's autocratic character. In the absence of truly democratic practices and the broad consent of citizens, the president's legitimacy is destined to erode. The opposition, secular and religious, seems determined to contest his authority.

Yet, there is one way for the regime to solve its upcoming legitimacy crisis. During his election campaign Mubarak pledged to introduce substantial constitutional and political reforms which touched on most of the major demands in opposition platforms. He committed himself to replacing the quarter-century-old state of emergency with a more specific anti-terrorism law, amending the Constitution to limit the powers of the presidency, putting more oversight capacity in the hands of the judiciary and legislature, delegating more authority to his Cabinet, and initiating a new round of national dialogue. Should Mubarak instruct his government and the NDP to initiate these reforms and articulate specific timelines for their implementation, his credibility would benefit greatly.

The opposition will most likely welcome any steps in this direction. Opposition parties and movements have legitimate doubts as to whether Mubarak's promises will materialize and how democratically spirited these measures are going to be. After all, government reforms of the last two years fall short of opening up political life and previous rounds of national dialogue failed due to the NDP's unwillingness to compromise. But, the suspicious opposition is also well aware of its own weakness in today's Egypt and the need for the regime's consent to initiate political reform.

Mubarak's first measures in the fifth term will be subject to intense scrutiny, both domestically and internationally. The test for his commitment to political reform is approaching with the upcoming parliamentary elections this November. Should he manage to engage the opposition in healthy discussion of reform policies, there could be some reason for hope.

As friends of Mubarak and of Egypt, the United States and Europe should encourage all efforts leading to national dialogue. Their sole focus on regime reformers or on liberal politicians has proved insufficient in recent years. Western governments should use their leverage over the regime to press it to reach out to the opposition and articulate a consensus-based reform agenda. This is the only viable way to promote political reform in Egypt, a country of 77 million citizens desperate for real change.

Amr Hamzawy is senior associate in the Democracy and Rule of Law project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR.

Decision Time on Iran

By Pierre Goldschmidt
The New York Times, September 14, 2005

In November 2003, Iran averted a crisis when it agreed to suspend activities that could one day give it the capacity to produce weapons-grade nuclear material. The International Atomic Energy Agency had discovered an 18-year pattern of noncompliance by Iran with its obligations to report all its nuclear activities, during which time international inspectors could not verify that they were solely for peaceful purposes. Because Iran suspended its most sensitive activities, the agency's board agreed to hold off reporting Iran to the United Nations Security Council. This was understood, in effect, as a quid pro quo: suspension of uranium-enrichment-related and reprocessing activities in return for not being reported to the Security Council.

Last November, Iran agreed with Britain, France and Germany to extend its suspension to include "all tests or production at any uranium-conversion installation." Iran also agreed that "sustaining the suspension, while negotiations on a long-term agreement are under way, will be essential for the continuation of the overall process."

But last month, the day before Britain, France and Germany gave Iran a proposal for a long-term agreement that offered economic assistance in exchange for ending its nuclear fuel cycle activities (but not its electrical nuclear program), Tehran announced that it would resume uranium conversion activities in Isfahan, which it did.

The agency's board of governors will meet in Vienna next Monday to decide how to respond. At the moment there is no consensus or even a majority that agrees with Washington, Berlin, London and Paris that Iran's noncompliance should be reported to the Security Council. Iran is vigorously lobbying its fellow developing countries on the board. While the agency's statute makes clear that it should report Iran's noncompliance to the Security Council, many board members are reluctant to do so, fearing a repeat of the dynamic that led to the war in Iraq.

It is important to remember that under the agency's statute, there is no deadline or expiration date after which noncompliance becomes moot. Thus, Iran is still accountable for its past breaches. And Iran's resumption of work related to uranium conversion eliminates the only reason for the three European countries not to report Iran to the Security Council.

A failure by the board to make such a report would considerably weaken the agency and the global nonproliferation regime. It would reveal that the world is unwilling to hold rule-breakers to account, inviting proliferation by other countries.

And it should be made clear that the purpose of reporting Iran to the Security Council is not to seek sanctions. Rather, the Security Council's authority should be invoked to press Iran to give the agency's inspectors the information and access they need to clear up quickly the many remaining uncertainties about what Iran has been doing and why.

Iran has been asked to do this repeatedly. Yet, two and a half years after its noncompliance was discovered, Iran is still holding back both information and full cooperation. Iran has not provided the requested evidence on why its leadership decided in 1985, in the middle of the war against Iraq, to pursue a uranium enrichment program when there was no short or medium-term need to fuel any electrical nuclear power plant. Inspectors are still unable to specify the origin of all enriched uranium particles found in Iran. And they cannot assure the truth of Iran's claims that after receiving more advanced centrifuge designs in 1995, it did nothing with them until 2002. Nor can inspectors rule out the possible involvement of Iran's military in nuclear-related activities.

It is time for the International Atomic Energy Agency to get the authority it needs from the Security Council to complete the verification that Iran's nuclear program is and has been, as claimed, exclusively for peaceful purposes. This is in everyone's interest, including Iran's, unless it still has something to hide. The Iranian people deserve better than a confrontation with the world.

Pierre Goldschmidt, a visiting scholar with the Carnegie Endowment of International Peace, was a deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency from 1999 to June 2005.

Discussions Point Way to Better U.S.-Libyan Relations, Rice Says

Secretary of state also renews call for Iran to resume nuclear negotiations

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says that discussions with Libyan Foreign Minister Abd al-Rahman Shalgam point the way toward "better and better relations" between the Libyan and U.S. governments and people.

Speaking September 17 at a joint appearance with Shalgam in New York, where the United Nations General Assembly is holding its 60th session, Rice took particular note of Libya’s "historic decision of get rid of its weapons of mass destruction." (See related article.)

The brief joint appearance augmented a written joint statement, which notes that their discussion had covered issues including "expansion of the U.S.-Libya relationship, reform issues, human rights, and cooperation on counter-terrorism and elimination of weapons of mass destruction."

In the statement, Rice expressed appreciation for Libya’s efforts to resolve the situation in the Darfur region of Sudan and of Libyan cooperation in the global war on terror, while Shalgam reaffirmed Libya’s renunciation of terrorism in all its forms and its commitment "to continue cooperating in the international fight against terrorism." (See Darfur Humanitarian Emergency.)

Asked at their joint appearance about developments in Iran, Rice said that nation "needs to return to negotiations" on its nuclear development program -- negotiations that it unilaterally ended. (See related article.)

Iran’s past behavior "has left the world with a lack of confidence" in that nation’s willingness to live up to its International Atomic Energy Agency obligations, she said.

Following are the transcript of Rice’s remarks and the text of her joint statement with Shalgam:

(begin text)

U.S. Department of State
Remarks with Libyan Foreign Minister Abd al-Rahman Shalgam

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Waldorf-Astoria Hotel
New York, New York
September 17, 2005

(4:30 p.m. EDT)

SECRETARY RICE: I just want to take a moment to welcome the Libyan Foreign Minister, Mr. Shalgam. We have had a very good discussion of a path toward Libyan-U.S. relations that will lead us to better and better relations between our people, between our governments.

Libya made a historic decision to get rid of its weapons of mass destruction and I think that it is paying off for Libya in the sense that American companies are there, that we are having this meeting and that we are talking about how to continue and push forward our relationship.

But I also wanted to say, Mr. Minister, is that it has been a good thing for the world and for the international community to see the leadership of Libya and your leader in making this historic decision, and a decision that was taken for peace. And thank you very much for that.

FOREIGN MINISTER SHALGAM: Madame, thank you, thank you --

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, what's your take on the recent developments of Iran here?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I have not had an opportunity to read the speech of the Iranian President (inaudible) been in meetings all day, but it is very clear in conversations here that everyone understands what Iran needs to do. Iran needs to return to negotiations. It was in negotiations with the EU-3 when they decided unilaterally to leave those negotiations and resume its nuclear programs.

The problem is that Iran's behavior in the past concerning its IAEA obligations has left the world with a lack of confidence in Iran's willingness to live up to those obligations. That is why the EU-3 has talked to Iran about ways to meet its needs - energy needs - without access to the fuel cycle. That is why the Russians have structured their civilian nuclear Bushrer plant without access to the nuclear fuel cycle. And so I would hope that Iran would engage in realistic discussions with the rest of the world about what is possible. There's time for diplomacy but Iran needs to make a choice now to return to negotiations.

(end transcript of remarks)

(begin text of joint statement)

U.S. Department of State
Joint Statement
Office of the Spokesman
New York, New York
September 17, 2005

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
and Libyan Secretary Abd al-Rahman Shalgam

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Libyan Secretary of the General People's Committee for Foreign Liaison and International Cooperation Abd al-Rahman Shalgam met today in New York. Their discussion covered the full range of bilateral issues, including expansion of the U.S- Libya relationship, reform issues, human rights, and cooperation on counter-terrorism and elimination of weapons of mass destruction.

Secretary Rice reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to working to broaden and deepen the relationship between Libya and the U.S, as Libya implements its undertakings.

Secretary Rice noted that American companies are returning to do business in Libya; and that increased economic and cultural ties benefit both countries. She expressed appreciation for Libya's efforts in working to resolve the situation in Darfur and Libyan cooperation in the global war on terror, and commended the historical decision made by the Libyan Leadership in December 2003 to eliminate weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles.

Secretary Shalgam praised growing bilateral ties, and reaffirmed Libya's commitment to the statements made in its letter addressed to the Security Council on August 15, 2003, renouncing terrorism in all its forms and pledging that it will not support acts of international terrorism or other acts of violence targeting civilians, whatever their political views or positions. Libyan also expressed its commitment to continue cooperating in the international fight against terrorism.

Secretary Rice noted that the path Libya had chosen was making the world a more peaceful place, serving the interest of Libya's own people, and adding to the security of all nations. She affirmed that as Libya continued this course, it would regain a secure and respected place among the nations of the world.

Secretary Shalgam pledged to cooperate in good faith with any further requests for information in connection with the Pan Am investigation.

Secretary Rice welcomed this assurance and the two parties agreed to continue and increase cooperation in areas of mutual interest.

(end text)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

On Iraq, Short Memories

By Robert Kagan
The Washington Post, September 12, 2005

If you read even respectable journals these days, including this one, you would think that no more than six or seven people ever supported going to war in Iraq. A recent piece in The Post's Style section suggested that the war was an "idea" that President Bush "dusted off" five years after Bill Kristol and I came up with it in the Weekly Standard.

That's not the way I recall it. I recall support for removing Saddam Hussein by force being pretty widespread from the late 1990s through the spring of 2003, among Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, as well as neoconservatives. We all had the same information, and we got it from the same sources. I certainly had never based my judgment on American intelligence, faulty or otherwise, much less on the intelligence produced by the Bush administration before the war. I don't think anyone else did either. I had formed my impressions during the 1990s entirely on the basis of what I regarded as two fairly reliable sources: the U.N. weapons inspectors, led first by Rolf Ekeus and then by Richard Butler; and senior Clinton administration officials, especially President Bill Clinton, Madeleine Albright, William Cohen and Al Gore.

I recall being particularly affected by the book Butler published in 2000, "The Greatest Threat: Iraq, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the Growing Crisis of Global Security," in which the chief U.N. inspector, after years of chasing around Iraq, wrote with utter certainty that Hussein had weapons and was engaged in a massive effort to conceal them from the world. "This is Saddam Hussein's regime," Butler wrote: "cruel, lying, intimidating, and determined to retain weapons of mass destruction."

A big turning point for me was the confrontation between Hussein and the Clinton administration that began in 1997 and ended in the bombing of Iraq at the end of 1998. The crisis began when Hussein blocked U.N. inspectors' access to a huge number of suspect sites (I'm still wondering why he did that if he had nothing to hide). The Clinton administration responded by launching a campaign to prepare the nation for war. I remember listening to Albright compare Hussein to Hitler and warn that if not stopped, "he could in fact somehow use his weapons of mass destruction" or "could kind of become the salesman for weapons of mass destruction." I remember Cohen appearing on television with a five-pound bag of sugar and explaining that that amount of anthrax "would destroy at least half the population" of Washington, D.C. Even as late as September 2002, Gore gave a speech insisting that Hussein "has stored away secret supplies of biological weapons and chemical weapons throughout his country."

In his second term Clinton and his top advisers concluded that Hussein's continued rule was dangerous, if not intolerable. Albright called explicitly for his ouster as a precondition for lifting sanctions. And it was in the midst of that big confrontation, in December 1997, that Kristol and I argued what the Clinton administration was already arguing: that containment was no longer an adequate policy for dealing with Saddam Hussein. In January 1998 I joined several others in a letter to the president insisting that "the only acceptable strategy" was one that eliminated "the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction." That meant "a willingness to undertake military action" and eventually "removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power." The signatories included Francis Fukuyama, Richard Armitage and Robert Zoellick.

About a year later, the Senate passed a resolution, co-sponsored by Joseph Lieberman and John McCain, providing $100 million for the forcible overthrow of Hussein. It passed with 98 votes. On Sept. 20, 2001, I signed a letter to President Bush in which we endorsed then-Secretary of State Colin Powell's statement that Hussein was "one of the leading terrorists on the face of the Earth." We argued that "any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq." That letter, too, was signed by Fukuyama, Eliot Cohen, Stephen Solarz, Martin Peretz and many others.

I recall broad bipartisan support for removing Hussein right up to the eve of the war. In March 2003, just before the invasion, I signed a letter in support of the war along with a number of former Clinton officials, including deputy national security adviser James Steinberg, ambassador Peter Galbraith, ambassador Dennis Ross, ambassador Martin Indyk, Ivo Daalder, Ronald Asmus and ambassador Robert Gelbard.

I recall a column on this page by my colleague Richard Cohen on March 11, 2003, shortly before the invasion. He argued that "in the run-up to this war, the Bush administration has slipped, stumbled and fallen on its face. It has advanced untenable, unproven arguments. It has oscillated from disarmament to regime change to bringing democracy to the Arab world. It has linked Hussein with al Qaeda when no such link has been established. It has warned of an imminent Iraqi nuclear program when, it seems, that's not the case. And it has managed, in a tour de force of inept diplomacy, to alienate much of the world, including some of our traditional allies."

Despite all that, however, and despite acknowledging that "war is bad -- very, very bad," Cohen argued that it was necessary to go to war anyway. "[S]ometimes peace is no better, especially if all it does is postpone a worse war," and that "is what would happen if the United States now pulled back. . . . Hussein would wait us out. . . . If, at the moment, he does not have nuclear weapons, it's not for lack of trying. He had such a program once and he will have one again -- just as soon as the world loses interest and the pressure on him is relaxed." In the meantime, Cohen wrote, Hussein would "stay in power -- a thug in control of a crucial Middle Eastern nation. He will remain what he is, a despot who runs a criminal regime. He will continue to oppress and murder his own people . . . and resume support of terrorism abroad. He is who he is. He deserves no second chance." I agreed with that judgment then. I still do today.

It's interesting to watch people rewrite history, even their own. My father recently recalled for me a line from Thucydides, which Pericles delivered to the Athenians in the difficult second year of the three-decade war with Sparta. "I am the same man and do not alter, it is you who change, since in fact you took my advice while unhurt, and waited for misfortune to repent of it."

Robert Kagan, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund, writes a monthly column for The Post.

U.S., U.N. Organize Support for Lebanon

Allies Back Relief From Syrian Control

By Colum Lynch and Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, September 20, 2005; Page A18

UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 19 -- The United States, the United Nations and several European and Arab governments sought to bolster Lebanon's quest to shake Syrian domination over its political life Monday, pledging economic and political support for Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.

A high-level meeting organized by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice marked the first time that key Arab governments, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, have publicly rallied behind the U.S.-backed initiative to support Lebanon's fledgling government. It represented a snub to Lebanon's Syrian-backed president, Emile Lahoud, who was not invited to the session and who was addressing the U.N. General Assembly while Rice, Secretary General Kofi Annan and foreign ministers from several countries debated his country's future.

The immediate goal of the gathering -- made up of a "core group" of U.S., European and Middle East officials and chaired by Annan -- was to put Lebanon high on the international agenda and to send a new warning to Syria that its involvement in Lebanon is unacceptable, officials said. The new group's long-term goals are to squeeze Lahoud to step down and foster political changes that will eventually diminish Syria's hold and disarm Hezbollah, a pro-Syria guerrilla group, the sources said.

"We gathered to demonstrate our support for and commitment to the new government of Lebanon as it works to reaffirm Lebanon's sovereignty, engage in vital reforms and strengthen Lebanon's democratic institutions," Annan told reporters after the meeting. "The international community remains steadfast in its determination to ensure that outside actors end all interference in the domestic affairs of Lebanon."

Rice said the gathering "sends a powerful signal to the world that the international community is devoted and committed to the future of a peaceful, prosperous, democratic and sovereign Lebanon."

Annan said that Monday's session -- which included the foreign ministers of Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Britain, France and Italy, along with World Bank President Paul D. Wolfowitz -- would set the stage for a major international conference on Lebanon's future by year-end.

Lahoud has been controversial since his six-year term was extended for three years by the former Syrian-dominated parliament -- in defiance of a constitutional limit. The United States, France and other governments accused Syria of forcing Lebanese officials to keep Lahoud. The Bush administration believes that the leadership of Siniora, who was elected prime minister in May, represents an opportunity for Lebanon to break decades of Syrian control.

Annan's spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, sought to play down suggestions that Monday's meeting of the "core group" was intentionally timed to exclude Lahoud. But other U.S., European and U.N. officials said the schedule was part of a plan to isolate him. "The international community has already sidelined him. He has become irrelevant," said a European official involved in the meeting.

The group's intention is also to prepare for completion of a U.N. investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri. The report is due in late October.

That probe, headed by U.N.-appointed investigator Detlev Mehlis, a German, has already implicated four senior military and intelligence officials aligned with Syria and Lahoud. The Bush administration and its European allies are considering introducing a new U.N. resolution to ensure the perpetrators of Hariri's assassination on Feb. 14 are held to account.

Hariri's slaying in a car bomb that also killed 19 others unleashed the "Cedar Revolution" and forced Syria's military withdrawal from Lebanon. The core group is now seeking to maintain the momentum of change, U.S. and U.N. officials say. "The triggering mechanism for the new resolution will be news out of the Mehlis commission," said a State Department official familiar with the plans. "Then the screws will be put on Syria."

At Monday's meeting, the participants agreed informally not to press for the disarmament of Hezbollah, the last active militia, until after the Mehlis report is delivered, according to diplomats involved in the meeting. Siniora said Lebanon was now at "the threshold of a new dawn," and Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit pledged to support Lebanon's aspirations to enjoy "stability and prosperity."

Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Faisal, meanwhile, railed against Hariri's killers as he pledged his country's support for Siniora's government "with all our ability."

9.20.2005

Article: A War to Be Proud Of

By Christopher Hitchens
The Weekly Standard
September 5, 2005

Let me begin wtih A simple sentence that, even as I write it, appears less than Swiftian in the modesty of its proposal: "Prison conditions at Abu Ghraib have improved markedly and dramatically since the arrival of Coalition troops in Baghdad."

I could undertake to defend that statement against any member of Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International, and I know in advance that none of them could challenge it, let alone negate it. Before March 2003, Abu Ghraib was an abattoir, a torture chamber, and a concentration camp. Now, and not without reason, it is an international byword for Yankee imperialism and sadism. Yet the improvement is still, unarguably, the difference between night and day. How is it possible that the advocates of a post-Saddam Iraq have been placed on the defensive in this manner? And where should one begin?

I once tried to calculate how long the post-Cold War liberal Utopia had actually lasted. Whether you chose to date its inception from the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, or the death of Nicolae Ceausescu in late December of the same year, or the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, or the referendum defeat suffered by Augusto Pinochet (or indeed from the publication of Francis Fukuyama's book about the "end of history" and the unarguable triumph of market liberal pluralism), it was an epoch that in retrospect was over before it began. By the middle of 1990, Saddam Hussein had abolished Kuwait and Slobodan Milosevic was attempting to erase the identity and the existence of Bosnia. It turned out that we had not by any means escaped the reach of atavistic, aggressive, expansionist, and totalitarian ideology. Proving the same point in another way, and within approximately the same period, the theocratic dictator of Iran had publicly claimed the right to offer money in his own name for the suborning of the murder of a novelist living in London, and the génocidaire faction in Rwanda had decided that it could probably get away with putting its long-fantasized plan of mass murder into operation.

One is not mentioning these apparently discrepant crimes and nightmares as a random or unsorted list. Khomeini, for example, was attempting to compensate for the humiliation of the peace agreement he had been compelled to sign with Saddam Hussein. And Saddam Hussein needed to make up the loss, of prestige and income, that he had himself suffered in the very same war. Milosevic (anticipating Putin, as it now seems to me, and perhaps Beijing also) was riding a mutation of socialist nationalism into national socialism. It was to be noticed in all cases that the aggressors, whether they were killing Muslims, or exalting Islam, or just killing their neighbors, shared a deep and abiding hatred of the United States.

The balance sheet of the Iraq war, if it is to be seriously drawn up, must also involve a confrontation with at least this much of recent history. Was the Bush administration right to leave--actually to confirm--Saddam Hussein in power after his eviction from Kuwait in 1991? Was James Baker correct to say, in his delightfully folksy manner, that the United States did not "have a dog in the fight" that involved ethnic cleansing for the mad dream of a Greater Serbia? Was the Clinton administration prudent in its retreat from Somalia, or wise in its opposition to the U.N. resolution that called for a preemptive strengthening of the U.N. forces in Rwanda?

I know hardly anybody who comes out of this examination with complete credit. There were neoconservatives who jeered at Rushdie in 1989 and who couldn't see the point when Sarajevo faced obliteration in 1992. There were leftist humanitarians and radicals who rallied to Rushdie and called for solidarity with Bosnia, but who--perhaps because of a bad conscience about Palestine--couldn't face a confrontation with Saddam Hussein even when he annexed a neighbor state that was a full member of the Arab League and of the U.N. (I suppose I have to admit that I was for a time a member of that second group.) But there were consistencies, too. French statecraft, for example, was uniformly hostile to any resistance to any aggression, and Paris even sent troops to rescue its filthy clientele in Rwanda. And some on the hard left and the brute right were also opposed to any exercise, for any reason, of American military force.

The only speech by any statesman that can bear reprinting from that low, dishonest decade came from Tony Blair when he spoke in Chicago in 1999. Welcoming the defeat and overthrow of Milosevic after the Kosovo intervention, he warned against any self-satisfaction and drew attention to an inescapable confrontation that was coming with Saddam Hussein. So far from being an American "poodle," as his taunting and ignorant foes like to sneer, Blair had in fact leaned on Clinton over Kosovo and was insisting on the importance of Iraq while George Bush was still an isolationist governor of Texas.

Notwithstanding this prescience and principle on his part, one still cannot read the journals of the 2000/2001 millennium without the feeling that one is revisiting a hopelessly somnambulist relative in a neglected home. I am one of those who believe, uncynically, that Osama bin Laden did us all a service (and holy war a great disservice) by his mad decision to assault the American homeland four years ago. Had he not made this world-historical mistake, we would have been able to add a Talibanized and nuclear-armed Pakistan to our list of the threats we failed to recognize in time. (This threat still exists, but it is no longer so casually overlooked.)

The subsequent liberation of Pakistan's theocratic colony in Afghanistan, and the so-far decisive eviction and defeat of its bin Ladenist guests, was only a reprisal. It took care of the last attack. But what about the next one? For anyone with eyes to see, there was only one other state that combined the latent and the blatant definitions of both "rogue" and "failed." This state--Saddam's ruined and tortured and collapsing Iraq--had also met all the conditions under which a country may be deemed to have sacrificed its own legal sovereignty. To recapitulate: It had invaded its neighbors, committed genocide on its own soil, harbored and nurtured international thugs and killers, and flouted every provision of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The United Nations, in this crisis, faced with regular insult to its own resolutions and its own character, had managed to set up a system of sanctions-based mutual corruption. In May 2003, had things gone on as they had been going, Saddam Hussein would have been due to fill Iraq's slot as chair of the U.N. Conference on Disarmament. Meanwhile, every species of gangster from the hero of the Achille Lauro hijacking to Abu Musab al Zarqawi was finding hospitality under Saddam's crumbling roof.

One might have thought, therefore, that Bush and Blair's decision to put an end at last to this intolerable state of affairs would be hailed, not just as a belated vindication of long-ignored U.N. resolutions but as some corrective to the decade of shame and inaction that had just passed in Bosnia and Rwanda. But such is not the case. An apparent consensus exists, among millions of people in Europe and America, that the whole operation for the demilitarization of Iraq, and the salvage of its traumatized society, was at best a false pretense and at worst an unprovoked aggression. How can this possibly be?

THERE IS, first, the problem of humorless and pseudo-legalistic literalism. In Saki's short story The Lumber Room, the naughty but clever child Nicholas, who has actually placed a frog in his morning bread-and-milk, rejoices in his triumph over the adults who don't credit this excuse for not eating his healthful dish:

"You said there couldn't possibly be a frog in my bread-and-milk; there was a frog in my bread-and-milk," he repeated, with the insistence of a skilled tactician who does not intend to shift from favorable ground.Childishness is one thing--those of us who grew up on this wonderful Edwardian author were always happy to see the grown-ups and governesses discomfited. But puerility in adults is quite another thing, and considerably less charming. "You said there were WMDs in Iraq and that Saddam had friends in al Qaeda. . . . Blah, blah, pants on fire." I have had many opportunities to tire of this mantra. It takes ten seconds to intone the said mantra. It would take me, on my most eloquent C-SPAN day, at the very least five minutes to say that Abdul Rahman Yasin, who mixed the chemicals for the World Trade Center attack in 1993, subsequently sought and found refuge in Baghdad; that Dr. Mahdi Obeidi, Saddam's senior physicist, was able to lead American soldiers to nuclear centrifuge parts and a blueprint for a complete centrifuge (the crown jewel of nuclear physics) buried on the orders of Qusay Hussein; that Saddam's agents were in Damascus as late as February 2003, negotiating to purchase missiles off the shelf from North Korea; or that Rolf Ekeus, the great Swedish socialist who founded the inspection process in Iraq after 1991, has told me for the record that he was offered a $2 million bribe in a face-to-face meeting with Tariq Aziz. And these eye-catching examples would by no means exhaust my repertoire, or empty my quiver. Yes, it must be admitted that Bush and Blair made a hash of a good case, largely because they preferred to scare people rather than enlighten them or reason with them. Still, the only real strategy of deception has come from those who believe, or pretend, that Saddam Hussein was no problem.

I have a ready answer to those who accuse me of being an agent and tool of the Bush-Cheney administration (which is the nicest thing that my enemies can find to say). Attempting a little levity, I respond that I could stay at home if the authorities could bother to make their own case, but that I meanwhile am a prisoner of what I actually do know about the permanent hell, and the permanent threat, of the Saddam regime. However, having debated almost all of the spokespeople for the antiwar faction, both the sane and the deranged, I was recently asked a question that I was temporarily unable to answer. "If what you claim is true," the honest citizen at this meeting politely asked me, "how come the White House hasn't told us?"

I do in fact know the answer to this question. So deep and bitter is the split within official Washington, most especially between the Defense Department and the CIA, that any claim made by the former has been undermined by leaks from the latter. (The latter being those who maintained, with a combination of dogmatism and cowardice not seen since Lincoln had to fire General McClellan, that Saddam Hussein was both a "secular" actor and--this is the really rich bit--a rational and calculating one.)

There's no cure for that illusion, but the resulting bureaucratic chaos and unease has cornered the president into his current fallback upon platitude and hollowness. It has also induced him to give hostages to fortune. The claim that if we fight fundamentalism "over there" we won't have to confront it "over here" is not just a standing invitation for disproof by the next suicide-maniac in London or Chicago, but a coded appeal to provincial and isolationist opinion in the United States. Surely the elementary lesson of the grim anniversary that will shortly be upon us is that American civilians are as near to the front line as American soldiers.

It is exactly this point that makes nonsense of the sob-sister tripe pumped out by the Cindy Sheehan circus and its surrogates. But in reply, why bother to call a struggle "global" if you then try to localize it? Just say plainly that we shall fight them everywhere they show themselves, and fight them on principle as well as in practice, and get ready to warn people that Nigeria is very probably the next target of the jihadists. The peaceniks love to ask: When and where will it all end? The answer is easy: It will end with the surrender or defeat of one of the contending parties. Should I add that I am certain which party that ought to be? Defeat is just about imaginable, though the mathematics and the algebra tell heavily against the holy warriors. Surrender to such a foe, after only four years of combat, is not even worthy of consideration.

Antaeus was able to draw strength from the earth every time an antagonist wrestled him to the ground. A reverse mythology has been permitted to take hold in the present case, where bad news is deemed to be bad news only for regime-change. Anyone with the smallest knowledge of Iraq knows that its society and infrastructure and institutions have been appallingly maimed and beggared by three decades of war and fascism (and the "divide-and-rule" tactics by which Saddam maintained his own tribal minority of the Sunni minority in power). In logic and morality, one must therefore compare the current state of the country with the likely or probable state of it had Saddam and his sons been allowed to go on ruling.

At once, one sees that all the alternatives would have been infinitely worse, and would most likely have led to an implosion--as well as opportunistic invasions from Iran and Turkey and Saudi Arabia, on behalf of their respective interests or confessional clienteles. This would in turn have necessitated a more costly and bloody intervention by some kind of coalition, much too late and on even worse terms and conditions. This is the lesson of Bosnia and Rwanda yesterday, and of Darfur today. When I have made this point in public, I have never had anyone offer an answer to it. A broken Iraq was in our future no matter what, and was a responsibility (somewhat conditioned by our past blunders) that no decent person could shirk. The only unthinkable policy was one of abstention.

Two pieces of good fortune still attend those of us who go out on the road for this urgent and worthy cause. The first is contingent: There are an astounding number of plain frauds and charlatans (to phrase it at its highest) in charge of the propaganda of the other side. Just to tell off the names is to frighten children more than Saki ever could: Michael Moore, George Galloway, Jacques Chirac, Tim Robbins, Richard Clarke, Joseph Wilson . . . a roster of gargoyles that would send Ripley himself into early retirement. Some of these characters are flippant, and make heavy jokes about Halliburton, and some disdain to conceal their sympathy for the opposite side. So that's easy enough.

The second bit of luck is a certain fiber displayed by a huge number of anonymous Americans. Faced with a constant drizzle of bad news and purposely demoralizing commentary, millions of people stick out their jaws and hang tight. I am no fan of populism, but I surmise that these citizens are clear on the main point: It is out of the question--plainly and absolutely out of the question--that we should surrender the keystone state of the Middle East to a rotten, murderous alliance between Baathists and bin Ladenists. When they hear the fatuous insinuation that this alliance has only been created by the resistance to it, voters know in their intestines that those who say so are soft on crime and soft on fascism. The more temperate anti-warriors, such as Mark Danner and Harold Meyerson, like to employ the term "a war of choice." One should have no problem in accepting this concept. As they cannot and do not deny, there was going to be another round with Saddam Hussein no matter what. To whom, then, should the "choice" of time and place have fallen? The clear implication of the antichoice faction--if I may so dub them--is that this decision should have been left up to Saddam Hussein. As so often before . . .

DOES THE PRESIDENT deserve the benefit of the reserve of fortitude that I just mentioned? Only just, if at all. We need not argue about the failures and the mistakes and even the crimes, because these in some ways argue themselves. But a positive accounting could be offered without braggartry, and would include:

(1) The overthrow of Talibanism and Baathism, and the exposure of many highly suggestive links between the two elements of this Hitler-Stalin pact. Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who moved from Afghanistan to Iraq before the coalition intervention, has even gone to the trouble of naming his organization al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.

(2) The subsequent capitulation of Qaddafi's Libya in point of weapons of mass destruction--a capitulation that was offered not to Kofi Annan or the E.U. but to Blair and Bush.

(3) The consequent unmasking of the A.Q. Khan network for the illicit transfer of nuclear technology to Libya, Iran, and North Korea.

(4) The agreement by the United Nations that its own reform is necessary and overdue, and the unmasking of a quasi-criminal network within its elite.

(5) The craven admission by President Chirac and Chancellor Schröder, when confronted with irrefutable evidence of cheating and concealment, respecting solemn treaties, on the part of Iran, that not even this will alter their commitment to neutralism. (One had already suspected as much in the Iraqi case.)

(6) The ability to certify Iraq as actually disarmed, rather than accept the word of a psychopathic autocrat.

(7) The immense gains made by the largest stateless minority in the region--the Kurds--and the spread of this example to other states.

(8) The related encouragement of democratic and civil society movements in Egypt, Syria, and most notably Lebanon, which has regained a version of its autonomy.

(9) The violent and ignominious death of thousands of bin Ladenist infiltrators into Iraq and Afghanistan, and the real prospect of greatly enlarging this number.

(10) The training and hardening of many thousands of American servicemen and women in a battle against the forces of nihilism and absolutism, which training and hardening will surely be of great use in future combat.

It would be admirable if the president could manage to make such a presentation. It would also be welcome if he and his deputies adopted a clear attitude toward the war within the war: in other words, stated plainly, that the secular and pluralist forces within Afghan and Iraqi society, while they are not our clients, can in no circumstance be allowed to wonder which outcome we favor.

The great point about Blair's 1999 speech was that it asserted the obvious. Coexistence with aggressive regimes or expansionist, theocratic, and totalitarian ideologies is not in fact possible. One should welcome this conclusion for the additional reason that such coexistence is not desirable, either. If the great effort to remake Iraq as a demilitarized federal and secular democracy should fail or be defeated, I shall lose sleep for the rest of my life in reproaching myself for doing too little. But at least I shall have the comfort of not having offered, so far as I can recall, any word or deed that contributed to a defeat.

Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair. His most recent book is Thomas Jefferson: Author of America. A recent essay of his appears in the collection A Matter of Principle: Humanitarian Arguments for War in Iraq, newly published by the University of California Press

Editorial: Tentative Steps Down the Road to Democracy

The Economist
September 9, 2005

It was a lopsided fight, hastily arranged, poorly refereed, and pitting a big bruiser against bantams. Still, Egypt's first-ever presidential election, on Wednesday September 7th, marked a watershed, even though it came as no surprise whatsoever that the incumbent, Hosni Mubarak (pictured), won. State-owned newspapers said on Friday he had gained around 80% of the vote.

Perhaps more than any other recent Middle Eastern event, from January's elections in Iraq to the “Cedar Revolution” in Lebanon, the simple running of a public political contest in the oldest, largest and most archetypically autocratic of Arab states presages an acceleration of the momentum for change in a region notable for political backwardness.

As in similarly novel elections for the top post over recent years, in such Arab republics as Algeria and Tunisia for example, the incumbent could expect to sweep all rivals aside. But Mr Mubarak's win, extending his term to 2011, is less significant than the scale of political ferment stirred by the campaigning itself.

After 24 unchallenged years in power, and control of a vast state apparatus, Mr Mubarak had a huge advantage. Yet his main rivals still managed to get their message out in an unprecedentedly noisy barrage of speechmaking and publicity. This did not inspire a large turnout. A legacy of deep cynicism, the barring of potentially popular Islamist candidates and procedural obstacles to voter registration kept numbers down.

However, the spectacle of public, often impassioned criticism and the very possibility of choice appear to have opened up new ways of thinking, focused minds on real issues, and emboldened activist groups that were already pressing for reform. “I've toured 15 out of 26 governorates, and not one single pane of glass was broken,” declared Ayman Nour, the youngest presidential challenger. “So how come we've been told for 24 years that we need riot police and emergency laws, that we aren't ready for democracy?”

Democracy is not quite what Egyptians have got. Mr Mubarak's regime, like the “reformist” ruling elites of nearby countries such as Jordan, Bahrain and Morocco, has yet to relinquish real control of the pace and scale of change. Its powers remain multiple and unchallenged, from the president's appointing of regional governors, mayors and village headmen right down to police officers' virtual immunity from punishment if they happen to maltreat suspects. “Three minutes of freedom” is what one Egyptian intellectual dubbed his country's 19-day official campaign period.

Not surprisingly, many Arabs suspect that reforms in Egypt and elsewhere are cosmetic, intended mainly to appease the Bush administration, which actively preaches democratisation as a foil to extremism. This is not entirely fair. In Egypt, for instance, reformist currents have gained prominence within the ruling National Democratic Party, just as they have within ruling families in the Gulf. Some argue that the government needs democratic legitimacy, as much to enable it to stand up to America as to better sell the kind of liberal economic policies they believe are the surest course to prosperity.

Other factors weigh in for change. Across the Arab world, demography, technology and communications have sparked a revolution in expectations. Satellite television presents clashing ideas, promoting a refreshing culture of debate. The fading of the post-colonial generation of leaders, and the failure of their pan-Arab project, has led to a loss of prestige for the patriarchal power structure that has long characterised Arab states. To disenfranchised youths facing such region-wide plagues as unemployment and housing shortages, radical Islam has sometimes appealed. But the violent excess of extremist militants has prompted many to seek practical solutions. Egypt's campaign rhetoric, for example, stressed domestic issues rather than the kind of perceived great injustices—Palestine, Iraq, Islam-bashing—that have traditionally grabbed the attention of the “Arab street”.

True enough, American pressure for democratisation has been inconsistent. The much-touted American aid programme meant to promote reform, the Middle East Partnership Initiative, gets less cash in a year than what America spends in Iraq in a day. Washington bureaucracy delayed funds for some democracy activists in Egypt. Others that did get American money include groups seeking to monitor the elections, but a quasi-official election commission blocked them from doing the job.

American policy priorities have also clashed with reformist goals. Pursuing terrorism by “rendering” suspects to torture-prone governments undercuts the many local groups lobbying to end such practices. Rather than being hailed as a model for pluralism, Iraq is widely seen as a chaos to be avoided. Many Arabs view its new constitution as the outcome of an American plot to divide and rule. Most Arab reformers warm much more to the caustic critiques of American filmmaker Michael Moore than to George Bush's “forward strategy of freedom”. Most believe that when push comes to shove, America's thirst for oil will exceed its democratic principles.

Yet there is little doubt that American influence has helped to tip the balance of regional forces in favour of reform. A coincidence, perhaps, but it was shortly after Condoleezza Rice, America's secretary of state, abruptly cancelled a scheduled visit to Egypt that Mr Mubarak announced his initiative to hold contested presidential elections. Later, speaking in Cairo, Ms Rice won over even a few Egyptian sceptics by appealing to their pride, suggesting that their country should lead the region in political progress as it has led before in pursuing peace. Lebanon's dramatic overthrow of veiled Syrian rule this spring was only made possible by American-led moves to de-claw and isolate Syria's regime. And these moves were made possible, in turn, by the toppling of Saddam Hussein.

And if the changes in many countries remain shallow, the whole floor of public debate has clearly shifted to questions of when and how to reform, rather than why. This is true even of regional laggards such as Libya, Saudi Arabia and Syria, which have all taken wobbly first steps towards wider public participation in government. Where bigger steps have been taken, such as in Egypt, the public appetite has been whetted rather than appeased. “This election was just a drill, which the government would never have accepted without foreign badgering,” admits an Egyptian official. “But it sets the stage for parliamentary elections that may get really interesting.” These are due in November. If debate stays lively until then, a lot more Egyptians may actually bother to vote.

9.19.2005

Survey: Mid-East extremes in power survey

BBC, 14 September 2005

A global survey for the BBC about power and how it is used has found the Middle East to be home to some of the most sharply defined national attitudes.

In Egypt, people are more likely to define themselves by religion than anywhere else in the world, it says.

Israelis are more supportive of their intellectuals, military and business leaders than any other nationality.

Gallup International questioned 50,000 people in 68 states for the BBC World Service survey Who Runs Your World.

Two-thirds, compared with a global total of 26%, said they trusted their military and police leaders.

Half of the 500 Israelis in the survey wanted military leaders to have more power in their country, which is higher than any other nation surveyed.

Other professions also scored higher among the Israelis than other nationalities, including intellectuals (71%, against an international average of 35%) and business leaders (45%, as opposed to 20%).

Attitudes towards politicians were very similar to the global average, with just one in six saying that they should hold more sway.

Trust in military

The survey suggests that Israelis have the strongest national identity of any country in the world.

Sixty percent of the Israelis answered that nationality was the most important thing to them, nearly double the global average.

Only 13% said their religion was more important to them and 4% their ethnic group.

In Egypt by contrast, where 500 people were questioned, a tiny 2% said nationality was most important to them.

One in 12 Egyptians cited their regional affiliation, but a massive 87% said their religion was the most important, giving them the strongest religious identity of any country surveyed.

Empowerment

An important part of the survey concerns whether those questioned feel represented by their government and whether their country holds free and fair elections.

Unfortunately, not all the questions were allowed to be asked - especially ones about politics - in Egypt, where Hosni Mubarak has just been returned to office in the country's first contested presidential elections, but with a very low turn-out.

Israelis, however, believe that they are governed by the will of the people more than most other nationalities.

Just under half said "yes" to the question "Would you say that your country is governed by the will of the people?" - a confidence in their political system that was only topped by Scandinavian countries and South Africa.

The overall global figure is only 30%.

Israelis were also among the most positive globally in responding to the question of whether elections are free and fair.

Egyptians were asked - along with Israelis - whether there was anything they could do to change their lives.

Forty-nine percent of Egyptians said yes, they did feel in control of their own lives to some extent.

The Israelis felt more empowered, with 64% thinking they could do things to change their lives, and just 29% saying there was nothing they could do.

Rice Sees Major Historical Change Under Way in Iraq

Sees insurgents losing popular support as Sunnis embrace politics

By David Shelby
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- Iraq is undergoing a major historic transformation, according to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and as such it is not surprising that the progress is accompanied by acts of violence.

"[W]hen you're in a very big historical change like this, you have progress and chaos existing side by side. And it is not going to be a consistent picture of one or the other," Rice told the editors of Newsweek magazine September 15.

She said such transformations can be messy and violent, but added, "[T]hat exists side by side with a political process that's continuing inexorably to move on, where you have a million more Sunnis registered than voted last time."

In an interview with the editorial board of NBC news the same day, she said that this growing interest in the political process, as exhibited through high voter registration, is an encouraging sign.

"[W]hen you have Sunnis who the last time either boycotted or stayed out because of intimidation, registering in droves and saying, 'We're going to win in these elections,' something is happening in this country and it is not just the few people that you see on television as leaders," she said.

She explained that this broad interest in the political process is a bad sign for the insurgency as it shows a lack of popular support for the insurgents' brutal alternative to the political system. She said no insurgency could survive without some sort of popular support.

"[T]his insurgency has plenty of lethality to make life difficult and miserable and violent and dangerous for the Iraqi population. What they have not shown is the ability to derail a political process that will lead over time to a government that can govern," she said.

Rice told Newsweek, "I think increasingly they don't have hope of a political base because Sunnis are determined to make the political process work."

Rice welcomed the progress of Iraqi security forces in taking charge of the security situation as demonstrated by their recent operations in Talafar. "I think Talafar was for the Iraqis a sense that their forces are going to be able to really make a difference," she said.

The secretary dismissed the notion that U.S. operations in Iraq had generated an increase in the number of terrorists and extremists. She said that these people were a latent force building up in the region and simply became more visible when the United States started to engage them after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

She also said that the current situation in the Middle East, despite the apparent turmoil, is better than the false stability that has existed for decades under the iron fists of authoritarian regimes.

A transcript (http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2005/53325.htm) of Rice's interview with NBC is available at the State Department Web site.

A transcript (http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2005/53320.htm) of Rice's interview with Newsweek is available at the State Department Web site.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

Op-Ed: A Foot in the Door for Egyptian Democracy

Author: Steven A. Cook

September 8, 2005
Foreign Policy

There was never any doubt that Hosni Mubarak would win Egypt's presidential election. But look a little further down the road, and you just might see a refreshingly uncertain path for Egyptian politics.

Egypt's presidential election was a farce. Challengers running against the 24-year incumbent, Hosni Mubarak, faced insurmountable obstacles. But just because the election was a sham, doesn't mean that it was meaningless. The constitutional amendments that were instituted to make the election possible may just open the door for real democracy in Egypt.

First, some perspective. Before this year, no Egyptian leader dating back to the Pharaoh Menes -- who ruled around 2900 B.C. -- had ever permitted a challenge to his rule. So Mubarak surprised almost everyone when, in February, he directed lawmakers to amend the Egyptian constitution and allow for multiple candidates for president, an office he has held since 1981. In one sense, this was a momentous development for which Mubarak deserves a lot of credit. On the other hand, the changes to the constitution were mostly cosmetic. Besides fighting the state-run media, Mubarak's challengers had to clear a number of unreasonable legal and technical hurdles: Independent candidates were required to obtain the signatures of 250 members of Egypt's parliament and 120 signatures from members of Egypt's municipal councils spread across 12 of Egypt's 27 governorates. In the end, only nine party-affiliated candidates (and no independents) were allowed to challenge Mubarak. Then, Mubarak's opponents were given just 19 days to campaign.

All that meant an assured victory for Mubarak. But the constitutional changes that Mubarak encouraged could open the door for a more democratic presidential race as early as 2011. Previously, Egyptian presidential succession was predictable. Gamal Abdel Nasser chose Anwar Sadat as his vice president and successor. When Nasser died, Sadat became president. When Sadat was assassinated in 1981, his vice president, Mubarak, became president. Although the Egyptian vice president is not technically first in the line of succession -- the speaker of the People's Assembly is -- neither Sadat's nor Mubarak's assumption of the presidency was ever in doubt. The recent changes to the constitution make this line of succession less certain. No longer will the incumbent president's chosen successor automatically assume the presidency.

Even if Mubarak selects his younger son, Gamal, or a high-ranking military officer to be his vice president and presumptive successor, that person would have to stand as a candidate in the 2011 elections. Elections, of course, do not a democracy make. And whoever becomes Mubarak's right-hand man will inherit a political machine and significant resources. It's also true that only political parties in existence for at least five years will be permitted to put up candidates, making it more difficult for challengers. At the same time, a new process has been set in motion that will be difficult to reverse.

Influential elements of Egyptian society are already mobilizing to push Mubarak's changes further than he anticipated. Approximately 3,000 members of Egypt's Judges Club, for instance, are insisting that they be given full authority to supervise the presidential elections to ensure polling is conducted freely and fairly. One astute Egyptian observer puts it this way: "Egyptian judges now know the power of making collective, public demands, buoyed by the admiration and support of pro-democracy forces and the glare of the international and domestic media." Other groups are following suit, including journalists, human rights activists, Islamists, and even Egypt's sclerotic opposition parties. All are signaling to Mubarak and his regime that business as usual is no longer acceptable. Mubarak's appointed successor, whoever it is, will likely not be able to waltz through the 2011 elections by believing merely that his patronage network will be enough to trump these reform-minded forces.

While immediately unsatisfying, Mubarak's constitutional amendments could make a significant impact on Egyptian politics in the middle to long term. Sure, the changes seem like yet another gambit to reinforce Egypt's existing political order under the guise of reform. But they nevertheless have the potential -- in combination with continued internal and external pressure for change -- to provide the basis for significant moves toward real democracy. The status quo in Egypt is slowly slipping away. And by 2011, Egypt may have a president who is neither a military officer nor a civilian with the last name Mubarak.

Steven A. Cook is the Douglas Dillon fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Open Door to Islamic Rule

By Eleana Gordon

National Review Online
August 26, 2005

It was a relief for many Iraqi women and democracy activists when Thursday's deadline for Iraq's national assembly to vote on the draft constitution came and went. As the deadline loomed, many Iraqis frenetically rang the alarm bell about major loopholes in the constitution that open the door for Islamic law in Iraq. The delay buys a little time to work to close these loopholes — but it won't happen without U.S. support.

The draft presented to the national assembly on August 22 does not establish an Iranian-style Islamic republic, as many pundits and critics of the Bush administration have rushed to claim. And it does contain some remarkably good language recognizing Iraq's ethnic and religious diversity and individual freedoms. But, amidst all the positives, the clerics managed to slip in a few key articles that could give them the room they need to hijack Iraq's emerging democracy.

To begin with, there is the shocking stipulation that the state only guarantees freedom of expression, freedom of the press and freedom of assembly and peaceful protest "as long as it does not violate public order and morality" (article 36). This will make it too easy for a supreme court or a parliament dominated by fundamentalists to restrict the political space of their opponents on the tenuous grounds of "morality." This exception could also be used to muzzle political organizations and parties by constraining their freedom of speech.

By the same token, although there may be justifications for restricting freedom of assembly in the name of "public order," it is hard to see why that should apply to peaceful protests, let alone to the press or personal expression. This is exactly the kind of language that has been used in many pseudo-democracies in the Arab world to shut down political opposition.

Another major issue that women and secular Iraqis have focused on is ensuring that personal status (or family law) is not governed by religious courts. It was this issue that first galvanized the women's movement in Iraq in January 2004, when members of the SCIRI party (the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which has close ties to the Iranian regime) tried to pass decree 137 that would have subjected family law to religious courts. The hundreds of women's groups that had formed in the year after Saddam's removal from power came together to lobby for the civil law that had been in place since 1959. Their campaign not only succeeded in repealing decree 137, but also led to a target of 25 percent of government positions for women in the Transitional Authority Law.

It appears decree 137 returned through the back door in article 39 of the proposed constitution which states: "Iraqis are free in their adherence to their personal status according to their own religion, sect, belief and choice, and that will be organized by law." There is no mention of the civil law, which should remain the default court for all Iraqi citizens. The permission of both parties in a dispute should be required to move to a religious court setting. Otherwise — in a divorce case, for example — a wife could be forced by her husband to refer to a religious court. These crucial details regarding personal status law should not be left to parliament to define by a simple majority vote, they should be enshrined in the constitution.

But by far the most worrisome provisions are those relating to judicial review. In essence, a supreme federal court "made up of a number of judges and experts in Shari'a" would not only resolve constitutional disputes, but would also have veto power over the legislature and the ability revoke existing laws (articles 89, 90 and 91). It is completely impractical for the supreme court to review every law coming out of the legislature — the legislature would grind to a halt. More disturbing: It paves the way for an Iran-style body of theocrats to follow the path laid out by Iran's Council of Guardians after the Islamic Revolution, which revoked dozens of laws affecting women, such as their right to initiate divorce, on the grounds that they contravened sharia.

At the very minimum, the constitution should state that all the members of the supreme court be required to have accredited civil-law education. The drafters might also consider mandating that sharia experts cannot constitute a majority of the court and that it must include women and non-Muslims.

Nor should the constitution be allowed to remain silent on the mysterious "Supreme Judiciary Council" that is supposed to nominate the members of the supreme court, according to article 89. The constitution does not say how this supreme judiciary council is selected, how many members it has, or how long they will serve. It isn't even clear why such a court needs to exist — is this a council of guardians in disguise, accountable to no one, but able to control the laws of land?

It does not take much imagination to see how all the remarkable language elsewhere in the constitution recognizing Iraq's diverse religious and ethnic identity, guaranteeing the basic freedoms of all Iraqis, forbidding tribal practices that violate human rights and requiring that Islamic principles be balanced with democratic principles, could easily be negated.

The constitution is being driven by Iraqi interest groups, and ultimately will be approved or rejected by the Iraqi people. But for the next few days at least, the United States still has a lot of leverage. In its haste to see a constitution finalized, it must not sacrifice key principles of democracy. We must stand by those in Iraq who have been at the forefront of the battle for freedom and democracy. They are counting on us.

9.16.2005

Bush Sees a Great Moment in the Cause of Freedom

Says building freedom-sustaining institutions should be work of democracy

By Merle D. Kellerhals, Jr.
Washington File Staff Writer

United Nations -- President Bush told the 60th U.N. General Assembly September 14 that this is a moment of great opportunity in the cause of freedom.

"Across the world, hearts and minds are opening to the message of human liberty as never before," Bush said. "In the last two years alone, tens of millions have voted in free elections in Afghanistan and Iraq, in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, in Kyrgyzstan, in Ukraine, and Georgia."

Bush said that through the establishment of the new U.N. Democracy Fund, the democratic members of the world body can work to help others who want to join the democratic world. He praised the leadership role taken by India, the world's largest democracy, in this effort, and noted that it has pledged $10 million to get the fund started.

The Democracy Fund's primary purpose is to promote democracy throughout the world by providing financial assistance for projects that consolidate and strengthen democratic institutions and facilitate democratic governance in new or restored democracies. The fund is designed to complement current U.N. efforts and to ensure an integrated, holistic, capacity-building and demand-driven approach.

Bush first proposed creation of the fund in his General Assembly speech a year ago at the same podium. But efforts this year are designed to get the fund started and funded. He attended a special launch of the fund with other world leaders. (See related fact sheet.)

"Every free nation has an interest in the success of this Fund - and every free nation has a responsibility in advancing the cause of liberty," he said.

Bush said the job of building democracy is larger than holding free elections; it also requires building institutions that can sustain freedom, he said.

"Democratic nations uphold the rule of law, impose limits on the power of the state, [and] treat women and minorities as full citizens. Democratic nations protect private property, free speech and religious expression," Bush said. "Democratic nations grow in strength because they reward and respect the creative gifts of their people."

He also said democratic nations contribute to peace and stability and not the conquest of their neighbors.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that it is the world body's role to help those nations that are seeking democracy achieve it.

"We are working with countries emerging from a violent past to build democratic institutions and strengthen civil society. The United Nations assists one out of every three parliaments in developing countries. And on average, we support an election every two weeks somewhere around the world," Annan said during the launch of the fund at the 2005 summit.

The voluntary fund was established as a trust fund by the secretary-general under U.N. financial rules and regulations, but it will not support any single model of democracy. An advisory board from member nations has been established by Annan to oversee the fund and recommend proposals for funding, and all proposals will be considered, Annan said.

Since the fund's creation eight nations have pledged tens of millions of dollars to get it started. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh joined Bush and Annan in the international launching of the Fund at the U.N. headquarters.

The United States declared its intention of being among the first donors, and Bush has requested $10 million for the initial contribution in his fiscal year 2006 budget request to Congress.

A transcript of Bush’s remarks to the General Assembly is available on the State Department Web site. For more information on U.S. activities at the United Nations, see The United Nations at 60.

Souece: International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.